Treatment Options For Agoraphobia

Published on September 17th, 2019

Updated on January 2nd, 2024

Treatment Options For Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a condition that causes a fear of situations that are perceived to be inescapable. People who suffer from agoraphobia struggle with excessive fears and anxiety for triggering situations. This fear causes them to avoid situations that they feel compromise their wellness.

People with agoraphobia are fearful of different kinds of environments and situations. Some may even fear leaving their homes. Some affected people can be in the feared environment for short amounts of time despite the fear. When in the feared environment, they suffer from anxiety and may need a companion to feel safe.

Common Situations That Trigger People With Agoraphobia

Several different situations can trigger anxiety for a person with agoraphobia. These situations often involve a scenario where there is a perceived threat. The sense of risk for being in such a situation is imagined or excessive.

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Most situations that cause a person to feel fear and anxiety are relatively harmless. A person with anxiety may fear something bad happening without a means to escape. This fear includes having a panic attack or anxiety reaction. There also may be a fear of being humiliated in some way without a means to escape public scrutiny. 

Common places and situations that can trigger agoraphobia include:

Consequences of Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia causes a person to live their life in fear. They can be fearful of most places, which takes a toll on their quality of life. As a result, many areas of an affected person’s life are significantly affected.

Consequences of agoraphobia include:

Agoraphobia can co-occur with other mental health conditions. Conditions that can occur with agoraphobia include:

Treatment Options For Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia treatment is challenging. It requires a person to confront their fears and step out of their comfort zone. This helps them to learn how to cope with their anxiety, fears, and avoidance of unfamiliar places.

Commitment to therapy for agoraphobia can result in recovery. It takes time and commitment to change. It also requires patience and forgiveness for one’s anxieties and challenges.

Therapy for agoraphobia teaches a person how to manage symptoms with coping skills. In therapy, a person learns how to manage their fears to reduce anxiety. 

The following forms of therapy are often used in the treatment of agoraphobia:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a form of therapy that is commonly used in the treatment of agoraphobia. CBT teaches an affected person how to face their fears. 

In CBT, a person learns how to separate their anxious thoughts from the feared situation. They learn that their anxious thoughts are what cause their fear and panic. They also learn how avoiding feared situations reinforces the fear within themselves. 

CBT targets a person’s immediate thoughts in reaction to a trigger. It helps the affected person learn how to confront their fears by challenging anxious thoughts. The more anxious thoughts are challenged, the less powerful they become. This, in turn, makes the fear response less intense. 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a form of therapy that helps an affected person confront their fears. Exposure therapy intends to lessen the fear response to triggers.

The goal of exposure therapy is to desensitize the fear response. This reduces feelings of anxiety and distress when facing the trigger in real life.

There are different types of exposure therapy, including:

Example: Taking fast, deep breaths to emulate hyperventilation.

People participating in exposure therapy may also use a hierarchy of fears. With this approach, an affected person organizes their feared situations from most tolerable to least tolerable. This hierarchy is used as a guide to building resistance to triggers.

Psychiatric Medication

Psychiatric medication may also be recommended in some cases of agoraphobia. In more severe cases, medication can help ease symptoms while working on coping skills. 

It is important to note that treatment is most effective with therapy. Medication alone is not enough to treat agoraphobia. While medication can ease symptoms, it is important to also learn coping skills for managing triggers.

If psychiatric medication is recommended, the affected person will be asked to meet with either:

The prescribing professional may coordinate care with the affected person’s therapist.

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